- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In November 2008 I plan on voting for the Republican nominee for president. In all honesty, it never occurred to me to even consider not voting for my party’s nominee next year.

This news wouldn’t normally be considered earth-shattering. After all I am a life-long Republican. Then again, considering the statements of some self-professed “Republicans,” maybe my pledge is noteworthy. On the “Bill Press Show” — a nationally syndicated talk radio show hosted by liberal Bill Press — Bay Buchanan hinted that she would be willing to support Hillary Clinton if former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani were the standardbearer for the Republican Party next November.

Bay Buchanan’s comments, coupled with the threats from a handful of evangelical leaders, highlight exactly what’s wrong with the Republican Party today. For years the far right has derisively chided centrist Republicans like me as Republicans in Name Only (RINOs). In light of the comments from Mrs. Buchanan and company it raises the question: Who’s the RINO now?

With so much at stake for America in this election, I am stunned that “Republicans” like Bay Buchanan, James Dobson and Tony Perkins would threaten to refuse to support the Republican nominee in 2008 because they fear the nominee may not meet their social agenda litmus test. The next president will make critical policy decisions that will chart the course for our country for decades to come: From the economy, to health care, to the global war on terror, the stakes in 2008 couldn’t be greater.

Their threats to not support our party’s nominee next November is just another example of the myopic, self-interested approach taken by the true extremists of our party.

I have news for the far right: Centrist Republicans are not “Democrats or Democrat-lite” — we are traditional Republicans. Not only are we traditional Republicans, we are also loyal Republicans. We fundamentally believe in the core values that unite us as a party — limited government, a strong national defense, lower taxes, expanded individual liberty and individual responsibility. We don’t view the Republican Party as a vehicle for pushing our own personal, social agenda. Instead, we joined the Republican Party because we believed it was the best hope for a brighter more prosperous future.

This drive for ideologically pure parties isn’t just a function of the right. The hard-core left wing of the Democratic Party worked to run off centrist Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Independent Democrat, and is actively challenging other centrist Democrats.

The far left and the far right are working to create a dangerous and untenable political situation — one where neither party represents the values or interests of mainstream America.

Far too often, our political process and the forces at work on it — particularly the media — highlight extremism, special-interest-driven government, and division. As our political system gets uglier and uglier, average Americans feel increasingly divorced from it. Far too often voters believe they can not change Washington. So why bother trying? The apathy bred by this deteriorating situation poses a long term threat to the health of our democracy.

Instead of leading the fight for an ideological purge of our party, Main Street proudly emphasizes the diversity of opinions on many issues. We should ignore the petulance of right-wing extremists. Now is the time for the Republican Party to return to its roots and unite around those core values all true Republicans share.

The Republican Party can begin the hard work of restoring our majority party status by focusing on those issues that enjoy consensus among our party and among the American people. Americans want efficient government, a strong national defense, lower taxes, expanded individual liberty and individual responsibility. Focusing on these Republican principles, we can grow our party and restore America’s faith in the GOP and in the political process.

The way forward for our party is a recommitment to those common values that underpin our great party. Those who reject those core traditional Republican values and those who would put their own personal narrow agenda above the welfare of our party — and indeed our nation — are the real RINOs.

Charles F. Bass, New Hampshire Republican, is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and now is chief executive officer and president of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

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